With qualifying for the year's second Grand Slam already in progress, the 2015 French Open will finally start to take shape with Friday's release of the men's and women's singles draw.
In a seismic change from recent years at Roland Garros, the nine-time champion and winner of the last five tournaments won't be drawing the top seed on the men's side. Rafael Nadal's slide down the world rankings figures to land him outside of the top four seeds altogether.
With that said, the trophy is more up for grabs than it's been in the last decade with the typically clay-court-dominating Spaniard not at his best. And with a plethora of rising stars in the game ready to take the next step, action should be hotly contested early on in the draw.
Let's take an early look at Friday's draw and which players to keep an eye on.
2015 French Open Draw
Date: Friday, May 22
Time: 5:30 a.m. ET (11:30 a.m. Paris time)
Where: Roland Garros, Paris, France
Live Stream: Roland Garros YouTube channel
Players to Watch
Some things never change, and Nadal's greatness at Roland Garros may be one of those things. 2015 should be the ultimate test in proving that.
The man with the most titles in French Open history has emerged from many poor starts to seasons only to dominate the clay courts in Paris, but those hardly compare to Nadal's recent struggles. He's fallen to No. 7 in the ATP rankings and stands to face a remarkably tough road to his 10th title.
Nadal usually gets right on clay at the Rome Masters prior to Paris, but he failed to even do that, falling to Stan Wawrinka in a straight-set quarterfinal loss. Despite slipping from the forefront of the stars of the sport, Nadal's five straight titles aren't lost on foes like Roger Federer, as Kamakshi Tandon of Tennis.com reported.
“Regardless of what anyone says to me he's the favorite,” Federer said of Nadal. “The guy’s only lost once in 10 years.”
If Nadal is able to get it going and slip past inevitably tough fourth-round and quarterfinal tests, the Spaniard will undoubtedly return to his typical fearsome self at Roland Garros. And if his recent success there is any indication, he's a safe bet to do so regardless of any late shortcomings.
Unless Nadal rights his wrongs or Federer emerges victorious, Roland Garros will crown a first-time men's champion in the coming weeks. If that's the case, Novak Djokovic will more than likely be completing his career Grand Slam.
Djokovic started 2015 in style by winning his fifth Australian Open title, but the clay courts at the French Open have remained the one elusive major for the Serbian. Twice he's faced Nadal in the final (including last year), and twice he's fallen.
But he may not end up facing his longtime foe after all, and that bodes well for Djokovic. He stayed away from Nadal at the Rome Masters in tuneup play for the French Open, and he ended up winning the title with ease.
That win marked just another accolade for Djokovic this year, as Sky Sports noted:
After dominating the first five months of the 2015 campaign, Djokovic is almost assured to notch the top overall seed in Friday's draw.
Things will be wide-open on the men's side with the winner of the last five tournaments reeling, but the same can't be said in the women's singles. That should be the case as long as Serena Williams remains at this level.
Williams took her sixth Australian Open earlier this year to win her 19th Grand Slam, and she will move within four of Margaret Court's record 24 with a French Open win. Former greats, including Martina Navratilova, have backed her to do so, as ESPN Tennis noted:
While the American has dominated women's tennis for most of her career, that same level of greatness hasn't carried over into Roland Garros. Her two titles there are three less than she's secured at the other three Grand Slam stops.
After falling in the second round last year and winning just one title there since 2002, Williams should enter the women's draw set on getting some revenge. That should be a scary thought for the rest of the field.